“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourstrength, and with all your mind; and your neighboras yourself.”
This week we didn’t have a traditional sermon at DPUMC. We tied up our series on difficult questions of faith by answering questions from the congregation. So it wasn’t possible to write my usual Tuesday follow up blog. Instead, I thought I’d offer some information to help parents and grandparents answer some difficult questions they may be asked this week.
The testimonies of Dr. Blasey Ford and Hon. Kavanuagh continue to dominate the news. The ongoing nomination process has sparked a national conversation about consent, assault, men and women’s experiences and rights. These subjects are as important as they are sensitive. Children and teens need to have their questions honored and feel safe talking to the adults around them. If the young people in your life have questions, it is because they are seeking your wisdom about the person they should become.
Many parents will want to shield young children from the explicit details. But children are capable of grasping consent and how they should treat others in an age-appropriate way. They can be reminded Jesus loves them and everyone. Because we love Jesus, we also love other people and treat them nicely. We only hug or touch others if they say its okay. And people should only hug or touch them if they say its okay.
With older children, you might emphasize that God has created each person and that all are equal in Christ. You can read together Psalm 139 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and along with the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). Discuss what it means to love others as ourselves.
With pre-teens that might also include a conversation about substances, like alcohol and drugs, that inhibit our ability to make good decisions and can even put us in dangerous situations. You might find the UMC’s Social Principles a helpful guide. From the section on Women and Men:
We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another. We especially reject the idea that God made individuals as incomplete fragments, made whole only in union with another. We call upon women and men alike to share power and control, to learn to give freely and to receive freely, to be complete and to respect the wholeness of others. We seek for every individual opportunities and freedom to love and be loved, to seek and receive justice, and to practice ethical self-determination. We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.
UMC Social Prinicples ¶161
Teens, especially, may be wrestling right now because Ford and Kavanaugh were themselves teenagers on the night under discussion. Your teen may know a friend who abuses alcohol or drugs, or who has been the victim of sexual assault. Try asking for and listening to their opinion first. If they have questions, remind them that sex is a good gift from good, but meant to be a gift between married people. Help your teen understand that loving others, means respecting their boundaries; loving yourself means being careful about the people you spend time with and the situations you put yourself.
Be an adult they can come too. Even if they or their friends find themselves at a party, on a date, or in a situation they’re uncomfortable with, let them know you are someone they can call with no questions asked until the morning.
For a deeper family study, you might read 2 Samuel 13-15 or Judges 19-20. Be aware that both these stories contain difficult content including sexual violence. In both, the assault and subsequent injustice have devastating effects for the Israelites.
Whatever questions your kids have, remind them that they are loved and that you are a safe place to bring their fears and anxieties.
Prayers for you this week parents.